Wednesday, October 19, 2022

52. The Furies by Niven Busch

My friend who was clearing out some of his old DVDs gave me this Criterion DVD and book set because he thought I might be interested in the book.  I was expecting a western noir.  From the beginning, the richness of the prose and the slowness of the pacing made me realize I was in for something more baroque.  I guess you could call it a western melodrama maybe?  The story centers around the Jessup family and particularly the relation between uber-patriarch and cattle baron T.C. and his daughter Vance.  She is a great character, right from the beginning.  You have this feeling that she is going to get screwed, as she is already sleeping with a Mexican cowboy (with a good but unrecognized lineage).  Instead, she is pretty kickass right from the beginning.  Her flaw is not one of weakness but rather she is too like her hardass father.  A lot goes on in the book with her character, ultimately revolving around her relationship with her father.  It's extremely Freudian and epic.  I appreciated that while she suffers a lot, none of it is in the cliched vein of the victimized woman.  Rather, it is the result of her power struggles with her father.  Everyone in this book turns out to be the person others are warned about.  The warning for T.C. is that he will use anybody to his own ends and this is indeed the case.  Despite that and the terrible things he does, in his limited way he loves and respects his daughter.  He is just a driven, self-centered son of a bitch.

It's an enjoyable, rich read.  The prose style is too baroque for my tastes, but you get a great sense of the plains and mountains, of the people and the cattle on these western lands.  It doesn't feel entirely authentic and I was not too surprised to learn that Busch was a wealthy new englander, well-connected to get a starting job at Time magazine and then plumb screenwriting connections with Walter O. Seznick's son.  He even married Teresa Wright!  Nevertheless, he is a good writer and this is a sprawling page turner.  I am looking forward to watching the movie.

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